Caldas de Reys was the starting point for the 11th sector of our walk organized by our friends at Terra Verde and on arrival some of us just couldn’t go without quickly bathing our feet in the thermal spring waters of the Fonte das Burgas. The water is of an excellent quality and flows from the basin of a hot springs fountain dating to the pre-Roman period. Caldas de Reys has several old and decadent hotels many of which are the remains of the flourishing thermal activity.
For this walk, Terra Verde had arranged for the Lord Mayor of Caldas de Reys, Sr. Juan Manuel Rey, to accompany our group of 85 people and his presence ensured that we were also accompanied along the way by the ‘Protección Civil’. With a continuous smile on their faces, they gave us priority clearance across major highways as well as standing by to indicate the correct route to our destination of Padrón. We felt very privileged to have their help in giving information along the way. Additionally they stamped our ‘credencials’ with their own official rubber stamp as part of the Spanish camiño.
Our walk took us through the old town of Caldas de Reys and out, to once again join the Roman Via XIX path where we were able to enjoy the beautiful Galician countryside. We were met with farmlands and vineyard upon vineyard of Albariño grapes which are used for the Spanish white wine (similar to Portugal’s Vinho Verde). The grape is noted for its distinctive aromas of apricot and peach producing a very clean flavoured wine. Curiously this white grape variety can be seen growing up high trained along granite posts around a field allowing for air to circulate underneath the vines. This provides farmers with an opportunity for polyculture where they can plant crops such as maize and other vegetables throughout the year.
The Spanish camiño on the Via XIX is extremely well signposted providing exact mileage between oneself and Santiago de Compostela. There was definitely an air of excitement and everyone had a spring in their walk as we quickly moved on through small villages with old churches and broken down buildings, farm animals and beautiful forests until reaching our luncheon stop – a small local café. An irresistible array of tapas were asked for which included braised mussels, smoked ham, empanada, tortilla, local bread with olives all washed down with local Albariño white wine and beer. Once lunch was over everyone quickly got on their way to continue through similar surroundings until we finally reached the entrance to our destination – Padrón.
Padrón has a fascinating history being located in the confluence of the rivers Sar and Ulla and on the crossroads to Braga in Portugal and Astorga in León. Originally known as Iria Flavia, it is said that the Apostle St. James first preached there during his stay in ‘Hispania’ (Roman name for the Iberian Peninsular) and soon after his death that his disciples Theodore and Athanasius brought his head and body to Iria from Jerusalem in a stone boat. They moored the boat to a ‘pedrón’ (Spanish for big stone) hence the new name that was given to the settlement. After burying St. James in Compostela they returned to Iria Flavia (now Padrón) to preach. The legendary ‘pedrón’ can be seen today at the parish church of Santiago de Padrón.
On arriving into Padrón at the end of the day, one cannot help but feel immersed in the history of the town. Just the huge parkland running adjacent to the Ulla River boasts two statues of important people who lived there.
Camilo José Cela y Trulock, 1st Marquis of Iria Flavia (1916-2002) was a Spanish novelist and short story writer associated with the Generation of ’36 movement. He was awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize for Literature “for a rich and intensive prose, which, with restrained compassion, forms a challenging vision of man’s vulnerability”.
María Rosalía Rita de Castro (1837-1885). Considered the poet laureate of Spain she was a Galician romanticist writer and poet. She wrote in the Galician language, after the Séculos Escuros (lit. Dark Centuries), she became an important figure of the Galician romantic movement, known today as the Rexurdimento (“renaissance”). Her poetry is marked by ‘saudade’, a deep combination of nostalgia, longing and melancholy.
We made our way to the parish church in Padrón to take a glimpse of the ‘stone’ boat which is carefully preserved beneath the main alter. One must enter the small church carefully and quietly asking permission from the caretaker to see the stone after which he will stamp your credencial. Many people throw a coin to rock to see if it lands in the middle as a lucky symbol for their walk.
In closing our day we all made our way to the Pulperia Real restaurant to order the delicious selection of tapas which this time included Padrón’s world famous small green peppers (Spanish pimientos de Padrón) from the Capsicum annuum family. They are fried in olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt just before serving. Best eaten freshly prepared, most of them taste sweet and mild but once in awhile you’ll get a hot and spicy one which can leave you gasping for water! A perfect close to our walk with one walk to go to reach Santiago!
Follow previous sectors of the coastal walk from Porto to Santiago de Compostela on these links below:-